The Truth About the CMA Awards and Realizing it's like The Wizard of Oz; Just a Grumpy Ole Man Behind a Curtain...
I don't like being the one on a soapbox. I don't like to call attention to something and make a stink about it. I will not be cruel, but I will be truthful. As a residential Nashville songwriter, attending the CMA's was the most heart-wrenching, uninspiring experience I have EVER had.
As most of you know, award shows like this always need "fillers" and they have a lot of extra tickets to hand out in order to fill in the empty spaces of a show where the cameras will pick up any bare space. My friends happened to volunteer for a pre-recorded audience filming that morning for Kelly and Ben (Kelly Pickler) as they commentated in between Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley. At the end of the filming, they did a drawing for ticket give aways. Both of my friends happened to get a plus one ticket and invited me to go with them.
Of course I'm freaking out because I find out I'm going at literally 4pm and I have to be at the Bridgestone Arena for 6pm. I tried racing home from work but end up getting stuck in traffic. My friend calls me on the way home to give me the 411 on what exactly the deal was with these tickets. Apparently, they were told we got front row and on stage tickets but we will be in the back for a few songs at the beginning, then they will usher us up to the front row, and then we will be ON the stage. Sounded good to me!
So by the time I get home, I have like 20 minutes to change and grab myself an Uber. I put on my fanciest dress, jewelry and shoes (which most of you know how HORRIBLE I am about my feet. I'm such a baby and I HATE heels). I grab a clutch throw my phone in it and I'm out the door. (Thank God I shaved my legs that morning)
I finally meet up with my friends and we are waiting outside of the side entrance where all the tour busses are. Immediately, a man starts walking up and down the line shouting "Once you get in, if we see your phones out, we will take them and kick you out. If you try to take pictures or video, we will have you arrested.” Needless to say, he said this so harshly it was super uncalled for and I was immediately turned off. We finally get inside where they usher us downstairs where we wait for about 15 minutes. They open the doors and we literally have to run to make it into the stadium in time where the count down has begun. "We go live in 10 - 9- 8 - 7 -..." We stand in the back, which was actually very cool. Cam and Brett Young both walked behind me, in addition to A TON of people I didn't know. The TelePrompTers were everywhere. Even if I didn't know the song I could sing along. There was one right next to me. I felt like I was doing Karaoke! We were there all the way through Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bently, and Eddie Montgomery took the stage to sing My Town. There was a break after that. People asked me what happens on the breaks. Honestly, the lights come up a bit, people leave to go get drinks. Me and my friend went out to grab a drink which, while in line in front of Karlie Kloss, discussed the ridiculous prices of the drinks (Two Tequila's on the rocks came to $40 dollars! OUCH)
We went back into the venue to where we were standing but they turned us around to face an additional stage so now we are front row. I noticed everyone had their phones out taking pictures so I asked 2 of the security guys behind me if it was allowed and they nodded fervently at me and said “yeah not a problem!”. Suddenly, a gentleman appeared on stage. It was Garth Brooks. I almost pee'd a little. Not because I get star struck or anything like that but because it was all so normal. I literally turned around and was starring at Garth Brooks. After his number, with his songwriter I might add...we were ushered into a room where we were told "if y'all have to go to the bathroom now is the time". We sat in a room for about 45 minutes. I did get to meet and chat music with singer/songwriter James Taylor from the Bachelorette 2016 show. He was cool, but his hair...way cooler.
A women came down and made an announcement. Now please understand that I was a plus 1. I had NO idea that I had a "job" to do. As far as I'm concerned I was handed free tickets to attend the CMA's. Her speech to us went a little like this: "Ok people, we are a bit disappointed with y'all. This is live Television. There are a lot of people not happy right now. You are not supposed to all be crammed together. Your job is to fill in the spots. You have GOT to pay attention. No one is super happy with any of you at the moment." I immediately felt like I was back in elementary school being reprimanded for not staying in a straight line walking to my classes. I said something to the effect of "ummm you've got to be kidding me right now", rolled my eyes and immediately wanted to say something. So now, I'm double annoyed with the guy outside and now this women. The same gentleman that was trolling the line outside then appeared and stood next to her to make an announcement. It went something like this: "Ok people, we are sorry to announce we only have room for about 75 of you up front right now. We can only let 75 people through so what we're going to do is try to get tickets for the rest of you to take a seat. The first 75 people to stand under that AT&T sign will go down. WALK! WALK!" Of course everyone is scrambling to get to the sign. Then he speaks up again STARTING his speech with a rude laugh saying "Just kidding, all of you in the back, I'm going to take the people in the back" Like he was seriously playing games with 250 people who have been waiting around for about an hour now. All of a sudden the same women shouts out: "People, this is live TV. If you are over 40 this isn't a show for you and you should do yourself a favor and just go home now. You should all know better. Anyone over 40 we won't be letting you down. The exit is that way!!!" Now at this point, I am LIVID. I mean...theres really nothing else to say except...YOU GUYS GAVE ALL THESE TICKETS OUT TO A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE. IF YOU DIDN'T WANT 40 YEAR OLDS THERE YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST GIVEN THE TICKETS TO EVERYONE UNDER 40.
So after 1/2 the people started to ask about these magical "tickets" they were going to try and get (mind you there's only like 10 minutes left of the show at this point), they basically didn't say anything more after that and said "guys the exit is that way, please leave we have no more room for anymore people.” Just than a young girl walks up to him. Tall blonde with a dress that stuck to her legs. He immediately lets her go through. The women speaks up again and says "come on people you know how this is, it's television. If you aren't young and pretty we aren't going to be putting you through. It is what it is people. This is how tv is."
There are no words for what I was feeling at that moment. These two employee's work for the Country Music Association. I was instantly disgusted with the attitudes of these two people. To treat these people so poorly, without a care in the world of the attitude and choice of words that were coming out of their mouths. And just when I thought it was done, the gentleman started checking out girls, hand selecting them based on their looks. He even said to one of them "You, tall skinny blonde...go ahead and head down". He also let a women through and refused to let her husband go down with her!
I was left that night to think about all these musicians that are so public about "loving your body" and loving who you are. Pink talking to her daughter about her looks, Carrie Underwood speaking about her weight over the years...do these singers know that the association they partake in is part of the exact people that they are speaking out against?
Honestly, as a songwriter pursuing a career in Nashville who wants to write songs for all of these artists, it seriously made me think about things. All of these people who were so desperate to get out onto that floor of the CMA's, were literally willing to take all of the garbage those two employee's were saying to them. All for what?
I am also fully aware that writing this blog may in fact hurt my career. But I wouldn't be doing what I think is right if I just sat back and didn't say anything. People deserve to hear about what it's like behind the curtain. It's ugly, I was offended, and I will never purchase a ticket to the CMA awards in the future. I guess it’s just more fuel for songwriting. Next time i attend this show, I will be there as a writer, and heaven help us all if they give me a microphone...
This guy started to look at me up and down as he was letting people down, I looked at my friend immediately and said "yeah I want no part in this, let's go". And so, yes, at 9pm I, Krystal Polychronis, walked out of the CMA's and went to go eat Mexican food with my friends where we sat and watched a gentleman play guitar who was exquisitely talented.
I don’t know what else to say except I’m heartbroken that this stuff STILL happens. It does, it’s real, I’ve experienced it and it’s just so fake. But hey, at least next time you watch the CMA’s, when you look at the crowd...you’ll know why everyone is blonde, tall, skinny...and under 40.